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The Brief: Dec. 15, 2015

Heading into tonight's GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz could have a new problem with which to contend: the disapproval of a group of Hispanic conservative leaders.

Sen. Ted Cruz at the Republican debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Nov. 10, 2015.

The Big Conversation

Heading into tonight's GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz could have a new problem with which to contend: the disapproval of a group of Hispanic conservative leaders who fear Cruz could be more alienating with his stance on immigration than Donald Trump.

The group of Latino Republicans met on Monday with officials from Cruz's campaign in a private meeting where they learned Cruz supports the idea of "attrition through enforcement," where policies are put in place that make undocumented individuals voluntarily leave the country without major legislation passed by the government.  

The Tribune's Patrick Svitek writes:

"The position, [Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the American Principles Project's Latino Partnership] later told reporters, is "perhaps even worse" than Donald Trump's plan for dealing with people already in the country illegally. The group has already said it could not support Trump as the GOP nominee due to his hardline immigration proposals, which have been characterized as amounting to mass deportation.

The group said they were surprised to hear the extreme position from Cruz's campaign, as Rev. Tony Suarez told Svitek, "We really need him to clarify because...we heard today for the first time as we've never heard from his campaign before." 

The Cruz camp stressed that the candidate was emphasizing that enforcing current immigration law remains his top priority. Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told Svitek, "Our legal immigration system is a mess because there’s a political unwillingness among politicians in Washington to enforce our laws."

Many Republican leaders have stressed the importance of making greater inroads among Hispanic voters after 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney registered just 27 percent support among that demographic group in a campaign that had him infamously suggest "self-deportation" as a way to deal with undocumented immigrants in this country.

The task facing Latino Republicans has become more difficult following incendiary language used by Trump to describe undocumented immigrants.

The Hispanic conservative leaders who spoke Monday emphasized the nation's need for a nominee from the Republican Party who could beat Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner. Svitek writes, "If past is prologue, they suggested, Cruz's immigration beliefs could be fatal in a general election."

"Self-deportation is a policy and political loser," Mario Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, told Svitek. "You can ask President Mitt Romney all about what he thinks about self-deportation." 

Trib Must Reads

Central Texas Research Chimps Face Uncertain Future, by Edgar Walters and Shelby Knowles – Last month, the National Institutes of Health announced it would no longer support biomedical research on chimpanzees, which means the nearly 160 federally-owned chimps in Texas will be retired to sanctuaries.

Gilmore, Pataki Miss Filing Deadline for Texas Primary, by Patrick Svitek – Two bottom-tier Republican presidential candidates have missed the filing deadline for the Texas primary.

Flood Experts Call for Better Warning Systems, by Jordan Rudner – As the Blanco River rose rapidly in the early hours of May 24th, phones around Wimberley — most of which had 512 area codes — received urgent text alerts: danger, flooding, seek shelter. Laura McComb, who had a 361 area code, did not receive any such text.

Surprise Congressional Challenge Marks Close of Filing, by Madlin Mekelburg and Aman Batheja – The window for candidates to file for the March 1 primaries closed Monday evening, and Texas Democrats had a last-minute surprise as former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia filed to challenge U.S. Rep. Gene Green of Houston.

Patterson, Declining to Run for Commission, Knocks Trump, by Jim Malewitz – Former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is not running for state railroad commissioner, and he says that Donald Trump has something to do with that.  

Abbott Names Next Education Commissioner, by Kiah Collier – Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday appointed Dallas Independent School District Trustee Mike Morath as the state's next education commissioner, describing the investor as "a proven education reformer."

Texas A&M Scales Back Plans for an Israeli Campus, by Matthew Watkins – Two years after the announcement of ambitious plans to open a branch campus in Israel, Texas A&M University is scaling back.

The Day Ahead

•    Texas Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith will sit down with state Sens. Paul Bettencourt and Sylvia Garcia to discuss the biggest policy debates of the Texas Legislature and what they mean for the city of Houston. The conversation will start at noon at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. The event will be livestreamed on the Tribune's website

•    The House Human Services Committee will meet to discuss the first of House Speaker Joe Straus' interim charges to the panel – the growth, geographic distribution and economic impact of aging Texans. The meeting will be at 9 a.m. at the Capitol. 

Elsewhere

Trump, Cruz 2016 fight brewing, Politico

Presidential ballot filling out with familiar names and some that aren’tThe Dallas Morning News

Texas Plumber Sues Car Dealer After His Truck Ends Up on Syria’s Front LinesThe New York Times

As Ted Cruz surges, he’s dodging potential fights with primary rivals — and even CherThe Dallas Morning News

Funds to care for unaccompanied immigrant children could fall short, The Associated Press

It’s time to ‘shame’ panhandlers, Fort Worth leader saysFort Worth Star-Telegram

For the first time, a Texas judge frees sex offender from civil commitmentHouston Chronicle

Zimmerman says officeholder account could bypass city campaign rulesAustin American-Statesman

Blue Bell returns to shelves eight months after recallSan Antonio Express-News

Experts: King's close race not a sign of GOP resurgence in HoustonHouston Chronicle

On 'Princess Bride' Portrayals, Mandy Patinkin Thinks Ted Cruz Doesn't Get ItThe New York Times

A&M scales back plans for facility in IsraelHouston Chronicle

Today in TribTalk

Why you need the flu shot this year — and every year, by Anna Dragsbaek – At least 73 children have died as a result of influenza in Texas over the past five years. Seventy-three needless deaths that likely could have been prevented if more Texans had gotten their annual flu vaccine.

Texas needs smart policies, not a miracle, by Ann Beeson – A troubling new economic forecast and continued concerns about oil and gas revenues are exposing the underbelly of the "Texas Miracle." Our challenges are real, but fortunately we don’t need a miracle to solve them. What we need are evidence-based public policies that give all Texans a chance to compete and succeed in life.

Quote to Note

"Telling Trump supporters that they should vote for Jerry Patterson while simultaneously opining that anybody who votes for Trump is an idiot is not a good formula for success.”

– Former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson on his decision not to run for state railroad commissioner.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A conversation with former White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove on Dec. 17 at the Austin Club

•    A conversation with state Reps. Celia Israel, Eddie Rodriguez and Paul Workman on Jan. 14 at St. Edward's University in Austin

•    The Texas Tribune's second Texas-centric Trivia Night on Jan. 31 at The Highball in Austin

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